Eagles

2017 NFL mock draft roundup: Corner, receiver popular picks

2017 NFL mock draft roundup: Corner, receiver popular picks

The 2017 NFL draft is in the Eagles' backyard.

They'll be picking in the middle of the first round (thanks, again, Sammy Sleeves) at either No. 14 or 15. The team's most pressing needs are weapons for young quarterback Carson Wentz and help in a weak secondary that lacks depth.

With a whole bunch of early mock drafts in the books, we take a look at what the pundits are saying about what the Eagles might do come late April.

Mel Kiper, ESPN - Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
We start with the original draft guru in Kiper. He tabs Williams, a prototypical outside receiver with strong hands and tremendous ball skills. Williams finished his redshirt junior year with 98 catches for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns. He capped off his impressive college career with an eight-catch, 94-yard performance in a National Championship win over Alabama.

Kiper's take: "Wide receiver has been a position of frustration for the Eagles, and it's imperative they add at least one more reliable pass-catcher next year, or they risk slowing the development of Carson Wentz. This is a spot where the Eagles could be considering another position (tackle comes to mind), but the value isn't there in some cases, and with Williams it definitely is. He's a great, big target for Wentz to work with."

Analysis: I'm sure no Eagles fans will argue this pick. In Kiper's mock, Williams is the first receiver off the board at No. 15. Williams isn't the most explosive receiver, but he consistently makes contested catches and wins with his size and strength. Between the two, I prefer Western Michigan's Corey Davis (Kiper has him going to Tampa Bay at No. 19), but an upgrade at the receiver position is definitely a positive.

Todd McShay, ESPN - Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
Tabor has all the swagger and ball skills you look for in a corner. He does take chances. He's not quite an Asante Samuel-type risk taker, but he will occasionally take the cheese and get beat deep. He finished his career at Florida with nine interceptions.

McShay's take: "Tabor needs to cut down on the number of big plays he allows, but he has some of the best ball skills among cornerbacks in this draft class, with nine interceptions and 28 pass breakups in his past three seasons. He shows natural anticipation, if not the most consistent technique. Wide receivers Corey Davis or Mike Williams could also be in play if they slip this far."

Analysis: There's a lot to like with Tabor and he does seem like a great fit for Jim Schwartz and the style of player he likes. With that said, if the Eagles go corner, they should take Washington's Sidney Jones. Jones is the most consistent corner in this draft and would be a piece that helps the Eagles solidify their secondary.

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com - Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
Speaking of Jones, Jeremiah agrees with me and has the Eagles taking the wiry corner in the first round. Jones flashed his ball skills a little bit at Washington, but for the most part wasn't targeted. He shut down the left side of the field a la Richard Sherman.

Jeremiah's take: "The Eagles are desperate for cornerback help; Jones is very polished and consistent on tape."

Analysis: Jeremiah is spot on with his analysis. I saw the same thing when I watched Jones. He's fluid in his movements and has the best technique of any corner this draft.

Josh Norris - Rotoworld.com - Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cook is the most complete running back in this draft. He ran for 1,765 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2016. He also caught 33 passes for 488 yards. He's not just a bell cow back. Cook is a big play threat, averaging 6.5 yards a carry and accounting for 48 total touchdowns in his college career. 

Norris' take: "I love Dalvin Cook’s game. The Eagles' offense can shift with any “type” of running back. They showed that in 2016. Cook is a big play threat who also wins after contact."

Analysis: Cook could be an extremely special player at the next level. If you're going strictly by the "best player available" strategy, Cook makes sense. He does also fit a need at running back. Cook's off-the-field incidents and injury history (two shoulder surgeries while at FSU) scare me a little bit. Again, Cook likely makes the Eagles better, but he's not the safest bet for a team that has recently swung and missed often in the first round.

Walter Cherepinsky, WalterFootball.com - Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Last but not least, Davis is the most polished route runner in this draft. He's maybe the most polished route runner in any draft ever. He broke all sorts of records, finishing his collegiate career with 331 catches, 5,278 yards and 52 touchdowns. 

Cherepinsky's take: "As you can see in the scouting report, the Corey Davis comparison is Demaryius Thomas, except he has better hands. Philadelphia fans will be happy about that after watching Nelson Agholor and the other wideouts drop countless passes over the past couple of years."

Analysis: Davis was my draft crush for most of the college football season. He's the total package. The comparison to Thomas is pretty fair. Thomas may be a little better down the field, but Davis is the more consistent player. If the Eagles give Wentz Davis, that could go a long way for his development.

Unselfishness at core of Eagles' balanced, lethal offense

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AP Images/USA Today Images

Unselfishness at core of Eagles' balanced, lethal offense

You look at the stats, and nothing jumps off the page. No running back on pace for 1,000 yards, no wide receiver on pace for 1,000 yards. Heck, even the all-world quarterback hasn't thrown for more than 211 yards in his last three games.

No 100-yard games by a wide out or tight end. Only one 100-yard game by a running back, and that was two months ago.

Four different guys have led the team in rushing, three different guys have led the team in receiving, 11 different guys have scored touchdowns.

Heck, in the win over Dallas Sunday night, the Eagles' longest catch wasn't by one of the speedy free agent wide receivers, and it wasn't by Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins or Zach Ertz. It was by rarely used 11th-year tight end Brent Celek, who turns 33 in January.

You want Pro Bowlers? This is not the offense for you. You want guys to score you a ton of fantasy points? This is definitely not the offense for you. 

You want a Super Bowl contender? Welcome to Philly, where head coach Doug Pederson has found a way to get a bunch of players used to being the guy to suppress their egos and do whatever's necessary to help the team.

LeGarrette Blount led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last year. Jay Ajayi was a Pro Bowler last year. Alshon Jeffery has been a Pro Bowler and was fifth in the NFC in receiving yards per game over the last four years. 

They're used to being stars. They like being stars. They get paid to be stars. And they've all put their egos aside to be part of something special.

Pederson's greatest accomplishment this year has been to get everybody on the roster to buy into the notion of setting aside personal goals to help the team win football games.

These are guys with big-money incentives and tremendous pride in their numbers. They want to be considered the best at what they do. And they want to put up numbers that land them that next big contract.

But Pederson has them all locked into something bigger, something greater. That game in Minnesota in 2 ½ months.

"The bottom line is winning the game," Pederson said. "Bottom line. I don't go into a game saying, ‘Jay, you've got to get 100 yards rushing. LeGarrette or Alshon, you've got to have 100 yards receiving.’ 

"It doesn't work that way. We don't design the offensive plays to work that way. If it happens, great. Alshon a couple weeks ago had an opportunity to be our first 100-yard receiver this year.

"It's just the guys just want to win, and it doesn't matter who's hot in the game. Our quarterback is so prepared and well-prepared, knowing exactly where to go with the ball in the passing situations. We ask him to do so much in the run game. And it's all part of the process, and these guys have bought in 100 percent, and they prepare that way. 

"You see it on game day. They're just all making plays and they're all contributing right now."

The Eagles are an NFL-best 9-1, and a win at home Sunday against the lowly Bears gives them nine straight wins, which would tie a franchise record set in 1960 and matched in 2003.

Their last four wins have all been by double digits, they're averaging 32 points per game, and they're on pace to score the 15th-most points in NFL history.

And they're doing it without anybody on pace for a 1,000-yard season and with just one 100-yard game by a receiver or running back.

Every coach talks about unselfishness, but Pederson genuinely has these guys living it and breathing it.

Why does it work?

"Because we all want to win," Blount said.

And it works because the quarterback is the most unselfish guy of all and legitimately doesn't care about anything other than getting a win.

"Winning is contagious, and the guys feed off of that," Pederson said. "And so it really doesn't matter who makes the play. It's just at the end of the day, just find a way to win the game."

Eagles DE Derek Barnett wreaking havoc as sacks starting to pile up

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USA Today Images

Eagles DE Derek Barnett wreaking havoc as sacks starting to pile up

With each passing game, it's starting to become clearer and clearer why the Eagles used their first-round pick on Derek Barnett. 

The rookie defensive end is beginning to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. 

"This guy is very disruptive, explosive," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He's another one of those unselfish guys. He just wants to win and do whatever he can to help the team win."

Barnett, the 14th overall pick in April's draft, had two sacks and a forced fumble in the Eagles' 37-9 win Sunday night over the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. 

In addition to Barnett's two sacks (he forced a fumble on one), he also applied pressure and hit quarterback Dak Prescott on two of his three interceptions. 

It seemed like Sunday was probably Barnett's best NFL game so far. The 21-year-old humbly didn't go along with that assessment. 

"I think I did some good things, but I need to do a better job in the run game," Barnett said. "I didn't do that well in the run game. At the end of the day, we won. That's all that matters. We got a victory and let's all go back to Philly." 

After failing to record a sack in his first five NFL games, Barnett now has 4.5 in his last five games. He is second among all NFL rookies in sacks this season. 

He's already eighth on the Eagles' rookie sack list and could move up that list quickly. Two more sacks would put him third behind just Reggie White (13) and Corey Simon (9.5). 

Sacks sometimes come in bunches. 

"I just think they're coming now," Pederson said. "I think he's getting comfortable in the role. He's developing. He's understanding the game. He studies tackles, he studies his opponent. He's developed a couple of different moves. It's just his willingness. It just clicks for any player. They start to come. I love where he's at right now too." 

Even before the sacks started coming, Barnett was quietly getting pressure. Now, he's getting pressure and finishing the plays. 

Barnett played 51 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps Sunday and is closing on the 50 percent mark on the season. While he hasn't been widely talked about as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, he could make a case quickly if these numbers keep piling up. 

More importantly, he could offer the Eagles a dangerous pass-rusher as they make their way down the stretch and into the playoffs.

And he's doing it with the same traits that made him attractive to the Eagles in the first place. 

Remember just after he was drafted, when vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas raved about Barnett's "excellent" ankle flexion? 

Well, check out Barnett's bend on his fourth-quarter strip sack: 


 

He bent around the left tackle and came at Prescott horizontally. 

He did it earlier in the game on the Rodney McLeod interception: 

 

And remember how much everyone praised his high motor and compete level? 

Check out his first-half sack. He willed his way to a sack and wouldn't let Prescott escape. 

Sunday was Barnett's second career two-sack game; they came less than a month apart. And it looks like there are plenty more sacks in his future. 

"They're starting to come in slowly but surely," Barnett said. "Everybody says to pass rush, you have to keep on rushing. You can't get down. You're going to be in your little slumps and stuff. You have to keep on grinding through it. It's eventually going to break."